01 May 2012

a confession and a salad

I have a confession: last week, I ate like an American. The stereotypical American, I should say.

I had just come home from a business trip to St. Louis, and as I do before many trips, I had eaten myself out of house and home, a phrase that always makes me think I should be eating drywall and brick.

Of course it just means that I ate all the perishable things: all the bananas, pears, kale, mushrooms, milk, cream, cheese, bread.

I left myself with many hardy staples: pasta, frozen chicken breasts, canned beans, frozen vegetables, and even frozen servings of this sausage and kale soup I had made when the weather was still chilly and gray.

So there was food, but it was the kind of food you have to think about. What could I eat with the pasta so that it wasn't just bland pasta? Did I want to eat the beans? Maybe rice and beans? Why did sausage and kale sound so good in March but not so good in May? What sounds good now? What do you do when nothing sounds good?

So much thinking, and there was little leftover space in my brain for thinking.

And there was little time for cooking wholesome meals. My office was in the middle of moving, so I was spending my days surrounded by packing crates and making sure I didn't misplace something very, very important, such as the permissions to publish documentation for every article ever written for our websites.

Little time for thinking.
Little time for cooking.
And the real nutrition killer: little time for grocery shopping.

All this littleness leads to my confession: last week, I ate like a stereotypical American. I ate a lot of fast food.

A Short List of Everything I Ate that Maybe I Shouldn't Have
  • gas station hot dog
  • giant slice of pizza from this little place on my drive home from work. You get a piece of pizza as big as three of my heads and a liter of pop—for $5.

    Plus, there's the added bonus of getting to feel slightly like Alice in Wonderland after she shrinks down to very tiny: everything in her world is too big.
  • BLT from Jimmy John's, except I'm not a fan of T on sandwiches. Tomatoes make the bread mushy, and I don't mind telling you that it's only a recent discovery that it's not that I dislike tomatoes in general; I really only dislike them on sandwiches. Until not so long ago, I bypassed most tomatoes {even when I lived in southern France}, which is sad, and I plan on making up for it this summer.

    So my BLT from Jimmy John's was more of a BLA—I had them put on avocado. And add extra bacon and onions, so I was really eating EBOLA. Nice.
  • pizza {yes, MORE pizza} from the Pizza Hut Express in Target. My new office is just around the corner from Target, and it may take a lot of will power to not wander its enticing aisles every day at lunch saying, "$5 movies! How can I pass up Practical Magic when it's only $5? That's just the cost of a giant pizza slice!"
  • KFC chicken strips, mashed potatoes, and baked beans. KFC is, to me, a comfort food, so please don't ruin it for me by telling me about how their chicken isn't really chicken. Sometimes, we all need a guilty pleasure, don't we?
With a list like that, it's no wonder that when I finally made it to the grocery store, all I wanted to buy was vegetables.

By last Saturday evening, my brain and schedule had cleared enough to where I was finally able to think about putting food together in a healthy, orderly fashion, not this haphazard eating of things that may or may not be chicken.

We all know not to go to the grocery store when you're hungry. I would like to add a rule:
Do not go to the grocery store when all you've eaten for the past week has come to you in a sandwich wrapper, cardboard box, or served with a spork.

If possible, find a way to get someone to invite you over for a homemade meal, preferably one involving a salad, so that your body can remember that it can, in fact, get nutrients from food.

If you don't do this, then when you're wandering the aisles of the store, some primal instinct in you will force you to put every vegetable and fruit possible in your cart.

It will be an attempt to stockpile freshness, as if your body believes there has been a vegetable apocalypse and you will be forced to eat trans fats forever and ever. Humankind will survive on giant pizza and fried chicken. It will not be pretty, so get the veggies now.

This is what happened to me: when I was at home putting my groceries away, I realized I had enough fruits and vegetables to feed a family of four for two weeks.

I'm telling you, you could make an excellent and large cornucopia display for Thanksgiving using what I bought.

However, it's not Thanksgiving and I'm not a family of four so much as one girl who lives alone with a pug, and she would be little help when it came to the fennel and other things that might rot before I get around to eating them.

So I did the next best thing to forcing my pug to eat fennel: I invited a lovely vegetarian over for dinner and made, among other things that involved many vegetables, this salad below.

As we giggled after dinner while drinking sherry {this is what sherry does to you, by the way: it makes you giggle, even though it used to be the post-dinner drink of refined ladies, which I, apparently, am not}, I was walloped with thankfulness for three things:;
  • for weeks when I don't eat well: Giving in to guilty pleasures makes the return to eating well taste that much better.
  • for giant pizza: It's so good that I thought of it even while eating asparagus.
  • for a good friend who will eat giant pizza with me and help me eat my cornucopia of vegetables: She's the kind of friend who understands that sometimes, there's little time for thinking, cooking, or shopping—and so sometimes, my hospitality looks like inviting her over and then serving her pizza or take-out Thai or grilled cheese. But she's the kind of comfortable friend everyone should have—the kind you can eat pizza with in your sweatpants and not have to worry about trying too hard.

    Then later when you have an overflow of vegetables and are overflowing with ideas of what to do with them, she's just the kind of friend who takes her first bite of asparagus and carrot salad, closes her eyes, and sighs in pleasure at the deliciousness of it. She's just the kind of friend you want to cook for and have at your table as often as possible.

Asparagus and Carrot Ribbon Salad

Serves 4

What You Need
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus {thick stalks if you can get them}
  • 2 large carrots
  • lots of kale
  • half an onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • anything else you find in your fridge that you think might taste good in here
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
For the Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper
What You Do
  1. Lay a stalk of asparagus on a cutting board. Starting at one end, use a vegetable peeler to peel off long ribbons of asparagus. Continue until all the stalks have been “ribboned.” This is actually a rather entertaining way to go about making asparagus.
  2. Ribbon the carrots, too. If the ribbons are quite long, you can cut them in half to make eating easier, and if you're like me and get nervous about peeling your finger—and therefore assiduously avoid the end of the asparagus/carrot—you can chop that up at the end, too, to make eating easier.
  3. Add all the vegetables together, make the vinaigrette, and drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Some freshly grated Parmesan cheese is a good idea at this point.
  4. Invite over a vegetarian and share.


  1. I am saddened there were no oreos on that junk food list! :-)

  2. Oh, Beth! How could I forget!

    I've discovered these cookies from Trader Joe's called Bistro Biscuits. They taste JUST like the cookies that are sometimes served with coffee in France, and so I buy them more often than perhaps I should.

    I also recently discovered Cookie Butter at TJ's: like peanut butter BUT MADE OF COOKIES. Cookies that taste like those Bistro Biscuits, actually, so part of what I ate when I wasn't eating well was cookies smothered in Cookie Butter.




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